FICTION

The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook

218p. Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2012. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-4197-0192-4. LC number unavailable.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3–6—Oona is a 10-year-old who has big responsibilities and, according to her grandmother, chutzpah. When her cat, Zook (short for Zucchini), becomes ill, she must find a way to stay positive for her younger brother, Freddy. Since everyone knows that cats have nine lives, she creates several tall tales and "whoppers" about the feline's past five lives to entertain him and keep his worries at bay. Her love of storytelling was inspired by her father, who died two years earlier. Her mother begins to fall in love with a neighbor named Dylan; Oona has secretly nicknamed him "the Villain" because she's convinced that he was Zook's previous owner and that he abused the animal. How long can she avoid the truth about Zook's fate and about Dylan? This heartwarming family tale is filled with resilient and thoughtful characters who are willing to learn from their mistakes. Readers who enjoy the novels of Jeanne Birdsall and Leslie Crunch will appreciate this charming story.—Stephanie M. Rivera, Washington DC Public Library
Oona's father has died, and now her cat Zook is sick. To comfort her little brother, Oona comes up with stories about Zook's previous lives. Rocklin intertwines her characters so smartly that the book's many coincidences and serendipitous events feel organic to the story. The ending--bittersweet, inevitable, and true--offers much-needed catharsis for the family and for anyone who has ever loved a pet.
Oona did not acquire the family cat Zook (short for Zucchini) in the most respectable of ways. By hiding his collar, she liberated the animal, skinny and with a BB pellet in his side, from an owner she suspected of neglect. Since that time two-and-a-half years ago, Oona’s father has died, and now Zook is sick. To comfort her little brother, Oona, channeling their dad, "the Great Rebus-Maker and Whopper-Teller," comes up with stories about Zook’s previous lives. The siblings’ own lives are also changing, as their mother has started dating Dylan, a.k.a. The Villain, original owner (Oona thinks) of Zook. Just as she did in One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street (rev. 7/11), Rocklin intertwines her characters so smartly that the many coincidences and serendipitous events feel organic to the story. This time the setting is Oakland, California, where, in Oona’s close-knit, "multi-culti" neighborhood, the local pizza joint acts as the kids’ afterschool hangout and block parties double as family reunions. It’s not all urban gardens and sunshine, though; Oona’s friend starts acting distant; her mother is underemployed; and her father’s absence weighs heavily on everyone’s hearts. Plus, Zook’s failing health leaves Oona, her mother, and brother to make painful decisions about his care. The story’s ending -- bittersweet, inevitable, and true -- offers much-needed catharsis for the family and for anyone who has ever loved a pet. elissa gershowitz

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